The Kansas State Wildcats faced a lot of questions defensively heading into the 2013 season facing the prospect of replacing nine starters. While many expected K-State to take a step back on defense, the group rallied and finished as the No. 3 defense in the Big 12 last season thanks to a breakout season from defensive end Ryan Mueller. This season, Mueller is poised to become a defensive star.
Mueller was given an opportunity to see an expanded role in the defense last season after spending 2012 as a rotational pass-rush specialist. He responded in a major way, finishing fifth on the team with 62 tackles and leading the Cats’ (by a wide margin) in both tackles for loss (18.5) and sacks (11.5) while also forcing four fumbles. The next closest Wildcat defender in terms of negative plays like that was senior linebacker Blake Slaughter with 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks.
Without much experience to lean on last season, Mueller stepped up in a major way and helped lead a young Wildcat defense. With his position as a featured part of the defense now solidified, he can turn his sights on really letting his game loose in 2014. He lacks the ideal size and athleticism to physically overpower offensive linemen but his non-stop motor and nose for the football more than make up for it.
For Kansas State to make a run at the Big 12 title this fall, they will need to disrupt some high-powered offenses down the stretch. To get that done, they’ll need Ryan Mueller, their breakout player of 2013, to become a legitimate defensive star in 2014.